Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Disaffected Party

New York Indian Removal, Part VIII: The Disaffected Party

In an 1869 sermon, Rev. L. P. Norcross said it started with the theft of a cow. James Oberly, author of A Nation of Statesmen portrays the conflict as largely about where different Indians wanted to live. But Roger Nichols (in his unpublished thesis) appears to have understood the rise of the Disaffected party the best.

In the 1830's, conditions were in place to push more Indians out of New York State. (Posts III and IV of the New York Indian Removal series provide some explanation and recommendations for further reading.) At the same time, present day Wisconsin was becoming a popular destination for white settlers, becoming a territory by itself in 1836. The government's goal was now to remove all "New York Indians," whether in New York State or Wisconsin Territory to a new reservation in what is now Kansas. As I understand it, it was at this point that the Brothertown Indians chose to give up their relationship with the federal government and become U.S. citizens. However, I will focus on the Stockbridge Mohicans in this post.

Rev. John Schermerhorn was the Indian Agent who made the treaty which ultimately sent the Cherokee Nation packing for their infamous Trail of Tears. Unfortunately, Schermerhorn also got involved in the further removal of the New York Indians. In September of 1836, Schermerhorn met with the Stockbridge Mohicans and succeeded in getting the tribal leaders (including John Metoxen, John W. Quinney, Austin E. Quinney, and Jacob Chicks) to sign a treaty that would bring about one more removal.

Schermerhorn arrived only weeks after the debacle of crime and punishment which I related in my previous post. When the two murderers managed to escape, some Stockbridges expressed doubt that their nation of roughly 320 people was big enough to govern itself effectively. If not, wouldn't it be to their advantage to combine with the other New York Indians on one large reservation? Furthermore, although it wasn't that long ago that some had said the Green Bay area would be reserved exclusively for Indians, it wasn't necessarily naive for some to hope that moving to an all-Indian territory would eliminate alcohol-related murders and other problems associated with white-encroachment.

Five of the established tribal leaders went with John Schermerhorn to look at the new land to the southwest offered in the treaty, but they found it unfavorable on account of the hardness of the water and scarcity of wood among other things (Marsh to Green, December, 13, 1837). The established tribal leaders and those who supported them became known as the "Wiskonsin Party" because they wanted to stay put.

The party that opposed them was led by Thomas Hendricks and Robert Konkapot. They were know as the "Emigrant party," the "Missouri party," and Cutting Marsh also referred to them as the "Disaffected party." There were a number of possible reasons why they might have been disaffected. Maybe cattle ownership and the pros and cons of relocating again were part of the conflict. And, as James Oberly pointed out, a key aspect of Schermerhorn's strategy was to stir up conflict between tribal factions. But Cutting Marsh and John Metoxen felt that the murder that summer and its aftermath is what led the Stockbridge Mohicans down the wrong path. Roger Nichols put more weight on their opinion and so do I.

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